This is the truth: when the end came, when all was said and done,
My mother’s one lingering regret was that she hadn’t lived with abandon,
That she had allowed her life to be constrained by a repeating sequence
Of “What ifs;” that she had settled for the familiar instead of the elated
Thrill of the unknown, the daring. Her life had been governed by circumstance –
Being born poor, being a young mother, being unable to reveal

To us, her children, the pain she was in when our father died. Death reveals,
In the harshest light, our mortality; uncovers those things left undone,
Those things that we put off, saying, “Well, maybe later; maybe when circumstances
Change; maybe when I have more time.” Those are the dreams we abandon,
The dreams we put off – the ones that have the power to make us miserable or elated
In their failure or success – the ones that make life worth more than a sequence

Of tiny tragedies. On her last day, I sat by her bedside and watched a sequence
Of nurses parade through her room, replacing IVs, pulling back bedsheets to reveal
The skin-and-bones maniquin she had become. I had heard the myth of the elated
Dead, the look of peace and contentment said to grace their features when it was done,
But when the nurses left to give me time with her, she looked like a house long abandoned –
A home devoid of it’s soul, cold and without context, devoid of circumstance.

I left on the bus that day; no, I had no husband to retrieve me; the circumstances
Of my life made marriage inconvenient. I had my fair share of companions, a sequence
Of one night stands, and a few who’d stay for the next day’s breakfast. I’d abandoned
The dream of stability years ago, prefering the thrill of spontaneity, letting each day reveal
It’s secrets to me as it went along. Strangely, as I rode, I felt less than elated
About my life; my mother had wished her whole life for my freedom, but what I’d done

Was not liberating, not satisfying in the least. All I had accomplished, all I had done
Had been a knee-jerk reaction to her own life; a desperate attempt to avoid the circumstances
She’d found herself in. I swore off marriage, a home, children, all in the elated
Hopes that I’d find fulfillment in freedom. But what freedom was this: a sequence
Of minimum wage gigs, men whose names I couldn’t remember, a credit record that revealed
How much of an irresponsible child I still was. I stepped off the bus, feeling abandoned

For the first time in my life, and that’s when it hit me: I had abandoned
My dreams because they felt too close to the burden she carried. She had done
All she could to give me the freedom to choose the life I wanted, and I’d revealed
Myself to be a hypocrite, to scorn her choices (which were dictated by circumstance)
When they were never her choices at all. My life was a continuous sequence
Of teenage rebellion, of the naive arrogance of the child, of blind youthful elation.

Walking home that day, I abandoned my childhood, decided I was over and done
With my current circumstance. I thought of my mother, the regrets she couldn’t reveal,
Her life a sequence of decision made for her. So I made a choice, and waited for elation.